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Now, it’s time to talk about Al Adamson and Sam Sherman.
My guess is that your response to that sentence was one of two things: “Finally!' or “Who?” If it was the former, I am here to serve. If it was the latter, what an honor it is to introduce you to Al and Sam’s strange and wonderful world.
Al Adamson was born in 1929 in Hollywood, CA. His parents were both actors. Show business was literally in his blood. His father, Victor Adamson was born in New Zealand but migrated to America and starred in low budget, grade-Z westerns (affectionately called “oaters”) under the stage name Denver Dixon. His mother was actress Dolores Booth. Al grew up tall and handsome. He may not have been a cowboy star like his old man, but he look liked like one. Al served in the Navy after World War II and did a stint with Western Union. He still hadn’t figured out what he wanted to do with his life when, in 1960, his dad got the idea to raise some money and make one more low budget western. Being a good son, Al went along to lend a hand.
The movie was called Halfway To Hell. Judging from the production, the shooting of the film covered the rest of the journey. Halfway through filming, the actor playing the villain up and quit the movie. No one knows exactly why, but Al’s dad quit soon after. That’s weird because, remember, it was his movie. He walked off his own set!
Al, who was just there to help produce the movie, looked around for a new director. He didn’t see one, so he took over himself. “I kind of got thrown into directing and learned as I went along,” he told Psychotronic Video magazine, summing up the experience, and the subsequent film with a wry, if honest, “In my opinion it was very bad.”
Enter Sam Sherman! Sam is a film fan, a walking encyclopedia of cinema history and, at the tender age of 22, is already writing for magazines like Screen Thrills and Wildest Westerns. The year was 1962 and Sherman was out from New York to profile Al’s dad for Screen Thrills. While he was out there, Sam and Al struck up a friendship. It would prove to be a lifelong, fruitful partnership.
Eventually, the wounds of Halfway to Hell healed and, after dabbling in nightclubs and talent management, Al returned to movies with a story he wrote, produced and directed. The film was shot under the title Echo Of Terror but would soon change its title to the exquisite, Psycho-A-Go-Go!
Psycho-A-Go-Go! was a lurid, mad-man-on-the-loose crime thriller. Fun fact! Psycho-A-Go-Go! was shot by a young Vilmos Zsigmond, who would go on to shoot such films as Deliverance, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and The Deer Hunter. All of those films are far better than Psycho-A-Go-Go! In fact, when Al screened the film for his friend Sam Sherman, they decided it needed reshoots. Significant reshoots. Or maybe a rewrite. Or maybe it just needed to be a different movie altogether.
They shot some new scenes with veteran horror actor John Carradine (father of David) playing a mad scientist, and, lo and behold, it went from a mad-man-on-the-loose crime thriller to a mad-scientist’s-monster-on-the-loose horror movie. And, oh yeah, the monster is also a robber! And that’s how 1965’s Psycho-A-Go-Go! became 1969’s Fiend With The Electronic Brain. But… it still didn’t really work. (“I was not a good film director in those days,” Adamson gamely confessed to Psychotronic Video) So still more footage was shot, and 1969’s Fiend With The Electronic Brain, formerly 1965’s Psycho-A-Go-Go! became 1971’s Blood Of Ghastly Horror.
And it worked! The Deer Hunter it’s not, but Blood Of Ghastly Horror got released, played a lot of drive-ins and made some money. Al and Sam were off to the races! But the track ahead had bumps. Oh, the bumps!
Coming in part 2, and probably part 3, Al & Sam meet the Manson family, suicide by airplane, and worse. I’m serious!